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Ontario EQAO Online Literacy Test Cancelled Due To Cyberattack

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TORONTO — The Ontario agency tasked with administering the first online literacy test to tens of thousands of high school students in the province last week says it was forced to pull the plug by an "intentional, malicious and sustained'' cyberattack.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office says the network hosting the "voluntary'' online test was targeted by an "extremely large volume of traffic from a vast set of IP addresses around the globe.''

It says the impact of the distributed denial of service attack carried out by "an unknown entity or entities'' was to block legitimate users such as school boards and students from accessing the test.

Most of the province's 900 secondary schools had signed up to participate in the test, which was a technical trial run before the first official test scheduled next year.

cyberattackThe network hosting the "voluntary'' online test was targeted by an "extremely large volume of traffic from a vast set of IP addresses around the globe.'' (Photo: Getty Images)

The EQAO, which oversees standardized testing in the province, says it is confident that student assessments can successfully be administered online.

It says an investigation is underway and will lead to recommendations to prevent similar problems in the future.

The EQAO's director of assessment said Monday the agency shares the frustration felt by students, parents and educators.

"We were shocked to learn that someone would deliberately interfere with the administration of the online (test),'' Richard Jones said in a statement.

Supposed to be a 'risk-free' way for students to take the test

"There will be discussions over the next few weeks to determine how to strengthen the system, and we will continue to work with Ontario's education community to understand how best to use online assessments to benefit our province's students.''

The test was also meant to serve as a "risk-free'' way for students to take it ahead of the next scheduled assessment in March 2017.

If students passed the online test, it would count, but if they failed or didn't complete it, they would be considered "first-time eligible'' for the test next spring.

The program was open to all 72 school boards, as well as First Nations and private schools, but the EQAO did not immediately respond to a request asking exactly how many students and schools had signed up to participate.